Amoral Majority

“Sonny’s right: the working man is a sucker”

Bronx Tale, 1993

I have to laugh when I read things like this from Steven Pearlstein’s column in the Washington Post today where he laments:

“Wall Street’s complete and utter amorality. There, concepts like truth, justice, fairness, trustworthiness, duty of care, right and wrong are now totally without meaning

(emphasis mine)

I give Pearlstein credit because at least he is willing to use his platform and the exposure provided by the Post’s Op-ed page to actually state this basic truth and let it filter into the mainstream where it belongs.

What I find funny is the hand-wringing over the notion that this phenomena of Wall Street being cutthroat, selfish and amoral is somehow new (albeit the brazenness might just be).

Again, I respect Mr. Pearlstein for even writing this piece, but I’d love to ask him: do you really think this amorality and lack of truth etc. is a recent development?

Capitalism by its nature is predatory (mergers and acquisitions) You have to make the best, most efficient, cost-effective widgets to survive. If you don’t, your competitor will and you’ll be out of business. Simple. It’s hard to envision this type of system ever breeding, or welcoming, the sense of ethics and justice Pearlstein rightfully invokes when there is a built-in, ready-made rationale to justify all levels of corner cutting, dishonesty, lawbreaking and what-have-you which is: if we didn’t do it the next firm would.

The people at Goldman Sachs are using variations of this logic right now: if we didn’t do these deals JP Morgan or someone else would’ve and we would’ve lost money, lost clients etc.

Be quick or be dead.

Add to this the basic fact that many of the people who shaped our recent, mostly disastrous, economic history are devoted Ayn Rand acoltyes. Gore Vidal perfectly described Rand’s ‘philosophy’ as being “nearly perfect in its immorality.” Rand expoused the importance of self-interest at all costs and basically gave greedy, amoral people pseudo-intellectual cover to be greedy, amoral people. This is an emerging trend similar to how the people in the “Family” (C Street’s, not Manson’s although both respect the methodology of Hitler) have molded and shaped a rabidly pro-business CEO version of Jesus to believe in and help them sleep better at night.

Echoes of Rand’s childish, simplistic worldview/philosophy dominate the business and political world. You can hear traces of it when someone like Rudy Guiliani mocks President Obama’s time as a community organizer. There’s nothing to be gained financially from it and, even worse, it acknowledges the existence and sufferings of other people, which is for soft, weak, immature suckers in Rand/Guiliani’s universe. I truly believe that this is an under-examined, overlooked explanation (besides his skin color of course) of why the Right despises Obama with the vehemence that it does: he’s not sufficiently selfish enough. He doesn’t play the game properly and with enough vigor. No connections to Halliburton or Chevron for him. Not even one solitary SEC investigation under his belt.

The Times article I linked above, while mostly about Alan Greenspan’s devotion to Rand’s rubbish, also contains this telling quote:

“I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ has had a significant effect on their business decisions”

Those words were uttered in 2007 by the Chief Executive of BB &T.

This attitude oozes from people like Dick Cheney. If you aren’t corrupt, cutthroat and knee-deep into crony-capitalism where the fix is always in: you are a sucker with no balls, just like Henry Hill said.

I love when every fresh-faced Republican savior like Mario Rubio bursts on the scene and almost instantly things like this happen. You can set your watch to it. But in reality he’s playing the game the correct way; and guess who was there to endorse him yesterday? That’s how you do it, President Obama! Take the rubes for everything you can while screaming about “limited government.” Of course they want limited government. Because government, when it’s run properly, limits their ability to steal. What self-respecting conservative could countenance that?

Instinctual predatory mindset, selfishness writ religiously large and with zeal, these things are in our DNA as Americans. Our way of life demands it. It isn’t pretty and it sure isn’t new (Homestead, Ludlow). This constant conservative psych-job/con that everything we ever collectively do, or have done, as a nation unquestionably wreaks of purity and altruism is undermined by every breath they take and every action undertaken.

At least people like Henry Hill are honest about what they are.


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